By Javier Lopez
The League of Women Voters Los Angeles (LWVLA) and the Associated Student Union (ASU) brought guest speakers to ELAC in order to inform students about the pros and cons of Proposition 55 and 57.
The debate began with Kim McGill from the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) defending Prop. 57. She stated all of the benefits that the proposition would bring to California’s communities.
One of the problems mentioned was overcrowding in California’s prisons. She went on to mention how passing Proposition 57 would help ease the problem.
In opposition was Jeffrey Monical, a strategic communications professional working on behalf of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs.
Monical’s opposition is that there is already enough progress being made. “We are down a lot in prison sentencing,” Monical said.
He believes that California has already done a lot to reduce the overcrowding of prisons as well as sending prisoners to county jails and having them serve out their sentence.
“This proposition will improve the parole process and protect the youth.” mentioned McGill.
The first portion of the proposition is meant to enhance the chances of prisoners getting a parole hearing if they are arrested for nonviolent crimes.
McGill also mentioned that Proposition 57 is not a “get out of jail free card”.
She said that the process of getting out on parole would still be a very rigorous one. The proposition would only increase some prisoners chances of applying for early release.
The second portion of the proposition would give judges the power to decide whether anyone under the age of 18 will be tried as an adult. Currently district attorneys make that decision.
McGill states how damaging it is to let a district attorney make such an important decision.
“District attorneys have to make charges based on crimes only and have to make decisions so quickly, sometimes without even seeing the person being charged,” said Mcgill.
This is problematic because the majority of the time the decision is to treat minors as adults without looking at the their background.
She then mentions how it could be solved by allowing judges to make the decision. “Judges can also take circumstances into account,”Mcgill said.
The judge would have more time to look over the case carefully without making a decision.
The decision would also be based off of living conditions, their income level and the severity of the crime, giving them a much clearer picture as to how to charge the child.
Monical also brought about another proposition that has already been passed to solve the problem.
“Proposition 47 said, okay, this list of convicted criminals, we’re gonna change from a felony to a state demeanor.”
“Every generation has to decide how to decide how your policing will work,” Monical said.
For Proposition 55, the defender was Oraiu Amoni, the Political Director for United Teachers Los Angeles.
Amoni made his case very clear. “We are just trying to extend a tax that has already been set in place for another 12 years,” said Amoni.
He then went on to explain the benefits of passing the proposition.
This included more programs in public education, hiring more teachers and professors as well as allowing community college students to transfer in a timely manner, among others.
Amoni also stated that the only people who would pay these taxes are those who make more than $250,000 a year.
“Raise your hand if you make over $250,000 a year.” said Amoni. In a room full of faculty and students, no one raised their hand.
He made it evident that Proposition 55 could only benefit California’s K-12 and Community College educational systems.
Against the proposition was a retired Glendale Professor, Mona Field. Her main arguments were against the stability of the proposition and the effects it may have on rich Californians.
“It will drive the rich out of California because they do not want to pay more taxes. They will take their businesses and jobs with them, too,” Field said.
This is one of the biggest concerns she has. She is also concerned about funding education through taxes.
“What are we doing if we rely on a tax based on the economy? What happens if the economy fails?” Field said.
Moises Lopez, a student at East Los Angeles College (ELAC), attended the event.
“Regardless of the opposition, there was an amiable presence all around”. Lopez said when asked what his favourite thing about the event was.
Amy Chong, who is also a student at ELAC, liked the event. “The League of Women voters provided both sides of propositions and were objective.” Chong said.
“I wish there were more events that talked about the propositions because it allows students to be socially aware about what they are voting for.” Chong said
Both Lopez and Chong agreed that the event was very helpful and would love to see more of these events at ELAC.